It is not enough just to come up with and creatively launch a new, spot-on brand.
While that front-end work, along with careful research and focus-group testing of a new corporate identity, is certainly a crucial first step in correctly expressing what your organization stands for and how you want to be perceived, you can’t stop there.
Good, sustainable brands require constant nurturing, refreshing and actualizing. Companies have to pay ongoing attention to their brand personas, as well as to how the marketplace is responding and reacting to their identities as expressed through well-thought-out branding and messaging strategies.
Branding is an ongoing process, not an event. It isn’t just great-looking graphics, an attractive logo and a catchy slogan. It is all the things that your organization does to create the processes and the employee behaviors that reinforce the idea that you are indeed what you say you are. True leadership at every level of your organization is required to underwrite the long-term success of a well-branded company.
It is important for CEOs and marketing leaders within an organization to help employees and customers understand what the brand is and how it relates to them. Different people process information in different ways. The true test of whether or not your brand is working is when you start hearing the “language” of your brand coming back to you, as expressed by those on the receiving end of your messages.
Use the language and intent of your brand to communicate and meet your customers’ expectations and track those internal service-delivery objectives that will ensure your customers receive what they expect from you, according to your brand declarations.
It is important to pay close attention to internal actions and behaviors that are consistent as well as inconsistent with your brand. The ones that are consistent provide great opportunities for reinforcement and for leveraging your desired image. The ones that are discovered to be inconsistent should be immediately converted to learning experiences with your team relative to the damage that these inconsistencies can impart to your overall branding. Create a culture of “brand vigilance” at every level of your organization.
Telling stories as part of your marketing and outreach efforts is a powerful way of reinforcing your brand persona. People are wired from childhood to learn through hearing stories. Rather than simply declaring that you are great, tell an interesting, entertaining story that demonstrates how you are great.
Periodically ask your customers and key influencers how your people and your company are performing relative to your declared brand positioning. Do your actions on their behalf match what you say you stand for? Then embrace their answers as a path toward improvement if you are falling short in some areas of importance.
While the best position to be in is having customers who totally buy into and believe your brand proposition and become your devoted fans, the second-best position is to internalize quickly any mistake or “branding gap,” and correct it to your customers’ satisfaction. The worst position, of course, is to be unaware of mistakes that are being made that undermine your desired brand and image, and therefore do nothing about them.
Monitor social media and your online presence on a regular basis and be sure to deal with negative comments in a clear, non-defensive and constructive way — and do it quickly. It is important for the people within your organization who are actively dealing with and managing your digital presence to know your business well and to understand how social media supports your external image and your marketing efforts.
Much like creating and articulating your company’s vision and goals, actively managing your organization’s brand is a crucial duty of good leadership.